One year ago, Lenovo pulled off something of a coup when it hired David Roman to become its chief marketing officer. During six years at HP, Roman had led the company’s successful PC marketing strategy, including the ‘Your computer is personal again’ campaign. Prior to that, he spent a number of years at Apple, honing his skills as a global marketer.
Roman’s arrival at Lenovo was seen by many as an admission that the Chinese PC giant needed to step up its efforts to engage with consumers, particularly in North America. The first concrete evidence of Roman’s work comes in the shape of a new global campaign for the company - ‘For those who do’ - which sees it depart from typical tech orthodoxy by articulating a clear point of view, in a bid to appeal to the youth market.
You headed an integrated marketing/PR team at HP. Is it a similar situation at Lenovo?
I’m the CMO, which is a broader set of responsibilities. At Lenovo, it includes strategy and market planning. I’m very much against splitting PR and marketing. I understand the rationale in some cases, but personally I believe if you have the marketing function, PR is one of the key tools in our arsenal.
Let’s talk a little about the new campaign - how important is it for you to build better awareness in the US?
It’s not really about just the US. We’re a completely global company. The US is one of our key markets but it is a global campaign. We are the fastest-growing PC vendor for six quarters in a row but we certainly don’t enjoy the awareness, outside of some specific areas, on the consumer side. In China, our situation is very different. The purpose of the campaign is to broaden the reach of Lenovo beyond some of our strong areas. Being a consumer brand and being acknowledged as a brand that is relevant to consumers is crucial for any technology product. And we think the only way to build a consumer brand is to be relevant to the youth market. The US is certainly a significant play in that, but we are looking at it worldwide.
You’re taking a point-of-view with the new campaign - that’s almost a PR approach isn’t it? How much of a departure is this for Lenovo?
It is a departure. Our heritage, like that of many tech product-oriented companies, is that you start with the development of a product and then figure out how to bring that to market. Rather than saying this is the perspective we represent. A direct result of the development of the tech business, it is consumers that are driving the new trends and it is the experiences that consumers get out of technology that are driving technology usage. Incidentally, it’s one of those things that’s not driven by marketing, but by the chairman of company and the CEO. They see it as the logical next step in the evolution of the company. That’s why I was brought in, with a mandate to deliver.
What is the point-of-view you want Lenovo to be known for, and why?
We came up with a brief to figure out what makes us different - what we do and who we are. We took that to a number of agencies, as an agency competition. Saatchis was the winner. Basically, the way they articulated it to back to us really resonated immediately. Lenovo really is a company focused on action - a “do” company. Our products are very functional, they have a reputation of being very reliable and solid in terms of delivering results. We’re not known for gorgeous industrial design, we’re really known for functionality.
We will take that “do company” that makes “do machines” and there is a a part of the market, especially the youth market, that really values that. They look at technology as their tool to get things done. We’ve done the opposite of what our industry usually does with our imagery. We are showing the product in use and the focus is on what the user is trying to do with that, and trying to make that as glamourous and aspirational as we can. For us, it’s a very significant change - it’s looking at the world from the perspective of the users rather than the perspective of the products.
Which companies do you think have successfully built a strong point-of-view?
In the technology industry, there’s no question Apple is the benchmark in that sense. I think most companies are looking at that more and more, because it’s a necessity. I’m not sure there is that much clarity. In other industries you see companies that have really differentiated - like Nike. Starbucks has done that well. Outside of our industry, a lot of companies have done it much better, but as an industry we’re new to this.
How important is role of PR and social media in the campaign?
Absolutely crucial for a number of reasons. The key audience is the youth market, and they are not easily reached through traditional marketing and communications. That’s a market that wants to have some engagement with their brand, and therefore it’s about looking at how we can make it relevant to them, and find out their stories in terms of what they do with their machines. We don’t really see it as a PR function, we see that ability to engage as a skill we have in our team. It’s the largest new growth area in marketing for us.